It’s 25° in Salt Lake City where I live and 25° in San Antonio where my daughter lives. It was a year ago this month when Ted Cruz, rarely seen in a mask, was spied trying to escape to the warmer climes of Mexico as millions of Texans were thrown into freezing darkness. The death toll reached 273, with estimated damages just short of $200 billion. Texas Power Failure.
As late as November 2021 Texas Governor Greg Abbott promised Texans the power grid was ready for whatever mother nature threw at it, and “guarantee[d] the lights will stay on.” This week, as freezing rain, snow, and sleet approached a large section of the country, the governor tweaked his November assurance by declaring that "no one can guarantee" the state’s independent power grid would hold up. It didn’t.
Doublespeak and flat-out contradiction aren’t just a Texas or a GOP thing, but they have perfected the art. I’m reminded of President Biden’s efforts to pass the much-needed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act on a bipartisan basis and the GOP resistance. The bill passed the House 228-206, largely along party lines, and the President signed it into law on November 15, 2021. Every Texas House Republican voted against the bill, while every Texas House Democrat voted for it. House Infrastructure Vote.
Voting against the bill did not prevent congress people or senators from taking personal credit for the monies that would flow into their districts and states from the bill’s passage.
Oil on Panel, Richard J Van Wagoner, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**
You may recall Texas House Republican Ronny Jackson, the former Navy officer and physician to the president who became the subject of a Department of Defense Office of Inspector General investigation. The OIG concluded, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Dr. Jackson had engaged in sexual harassment and “in inappropriate conduct involving the use of alcohol,” “disparaged, belittled, bullied, and humiliated subordinates,” “created a negative WHMU work environment,” and “failed to conduct himself in an exemplary manner and made an unfavorable impact on the overall WHMU command climate.” Inspector General Report. His response, as expected, was to claim the OIG report was “a political hit job because I stood with President Trump.” .
Dr. Jackson denounced the infrastructure bill as “terrible,” tweeting “I WILL NOT be voting for Pelosi’s bloated ‘infrastructure’ bill, which spits in the face of Patriotic values my constituents expect out of their representation in Washington.” Once the money began flowing, he bragged to his constituents about the “instrumental” role he and Senator Cruz had played in securing funding for a water project in his district that is financed by none other than the “terrible” bill they both voted against. Jackson's "Instrumental" Role.
While Texas has its share, including Representative Kay Granger, members from other states “have been caught voting no and taking the dough,” such as Gary Palmer of Alabama, Michelle Steel of California, Ashley Hinson of Iowa, Steve Scalise and Clay Higgins of Louisiana, and Andy Harris of Maryland. Senator Rick Scott told Floridians he was “proud” to have helped secure funding for Everglades restoration, carrying on the tradition of taking credit for infrastructure funding he opposed.
Why do we elect and re-elect people who refuse to solve existing problems, people who fail to advance meaningful solutions to foreseeable problems, who, when things go awry take no personal responsibility and blame others, and when things go well, despite their worst efforts, take the credit?
Watercolor, Richard J Van Wagoner, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**
My naïve understanding of what is in people’s interest, what matters or should matter the most, is out of sync with a large swath of the population. To most on the right, seeing an administration fail is much more important than seeing people’s lives improve. Fox News hosts were horrified by the positive economic and job numbers report that just came out and quickly changed the subject. Reveling in owning the libs feels so good and serves as fodder for political rallies, money ministries, and target practice, but, if I am not mistaken, does not come with clean water, food, shelter, heat, electricity, roads and highways, bridges, communication infrastructure, safe workplaces, a living wage, safe drugs . . . .
Flush with the darkest of money from the narrowest of corporate interests, identity politicians lie, and repeat the lies, to keep you off “socialism’s” slippery grid (electrical and otherwise), all while deregulating and subsidizing their high-dollar, dark-money donors. Why? So they stay in power and their benefactors disproportionately increase their wealth. You are good with that, even if you are on the wrong side of the zero-sum equation, because your problems are caused by the libs who want to take away your guns and religion, or by the immigrants, or the Muslims, Black Lives Matter, Antifa and the gays, and not by GOP obstructionism and post-policy inability to govern. How’s your health, by the way? Making ends meet? If you are, don’t blame a Republican.
Last year’s Texas disaster, which many folks foretold, was not just metaphor for the last administration and Republicans’ continuing science denial and refusal to govern. Seems like we’ve heard this one before, a Democrat administration coming in to solve the disastrous failures and destruction left by its Republican predecessor. When things turn to shit during GOP administrations, as they do, who steps in to help? Who do the wannabe secessionists call for relief from the disaster they caused or refused to remedy?
*My brother the very talented fiction writer and novelist, Robert Hodgson Van Wagoner, deserves considerable credit for offering both substantive and technical suggestions to https://medium.com/@richardvanwagoner and https://lastamendment.com. Rob’s second novel, a beautifully written suspense drama that takes place in Utah, Wyoming, and Norway, dropped on November 17, 2020. Available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple Bookstore and your favorite local bookshop, this novel, The Contortionists, which Rob himself narrates for the audio version, is a psychological page-turner about a missing child in a predominantly Mormon community. I have read the novel and listened to the audio version twice. It is a literary masterpiece. The Contortionists is not, however, for the faint of heart.
**Richard J Van Wagoner is my father. His list of honors, awards and professional associations is extensive. He was Professor Emeritus (Painting and Drawing), Weber State University, having served three Appointments as Chair of the Department of Visual Arts there. He guest-lectured and instructed at many universities and juried numerous shows and exhibitions. He was invited to submit his work as part of many shows and exhibitions, and his work was exhibited in many traveling shows domestically and internationally. My daughter Angela Moore, a professional photographer, photographed more than 500 pieces of my father's work. On behalf of the Van Wagoner Family Trust, she is in the process of compiling a collection of his artwork. The photographs of my father's art reproduced in https://medium.com/@richardvanwagoner and https://lastamendment.com are hers.